Car Lift Accidents: Are Mechanics Safe?

We’ve all probably heard horror stories about car lifts malfunctioning and crushing mechanics to death. There are many causes of car lift accidents, but repair shops don’t seem to learn their lessons, which puts their technicians’ lives on the line. Fortunately, all these accidents are entirely preventable.

Why Do Car Lifts Fail?

There are three leading causes a car lift might fail, with deadly consequences:

  • The vehicle is not adequately secured in place
  • The lift was not correctly installed
  • There’s a design flaw.

If the car is not adequately secured, it can slide off the lift after being hoisted and crush the technician underneath to death. There were countless reports of car lift accidents being caused by human error when handling the lift. In most cases, the mechanics were either instantly killed or died from their horrendous injuries at a hospital.

Car lift accidents also happen because the lift is not correctly installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions. For instance, a mechanic in Hartford, Connecticut, was crushed to death when the vehicle fell off after being hoisted on an improperly installed lift. Investigators found that the lift’s arms had been incorrectly placed.

A car lift might fail if the product is defective. Especially cheaper automotive lifts imported from China are more likely to come packed with design flaws that can prove deadly. For instance, many lifts are marketed as having a higher maximum load limit than they really have. That’s why many repair shops should be aware of a cheap 10,000 lb. lift will only support up to 7,000 lbs. in a real-life scenario.

What Mechanics Need to Do

There are several things a car mechanic can do when handling a car lift to stay on the safe side:

  • Only lift the vehicle about 1.5 foot off the floor
  • Raise the lift slowly and don’t move it quickly at the top
  • Lower the lift and secure the vehicle again if the contact with the lift looks not safe or if the car seems like it is about to slide off.
  • Ensure that there are no hazards that may affect the car, like radio antennas, a transmission not placed in the neutral position, or a switched-on ignition.
  • Follow the instructions when placing the pads and adapters under the lift’s contact points
  • Assess the center of gravity of the car when securing it on the lift and mentally estimate whether any load in the vehicle might shift its center of gravity
  • If the lift’s instruction manual asks for the removal of heavy parts of the car such as the engine or axels before lifting it, follow the instructions.
  • Ensure that the automatic chock devices on a runaway automotive lift work properly before hoisting the car; as you hoist the vehicle, keep an eye on the chock devices to make sure that they function correctly.
  • Lock the lift in place as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure that the lift is properly inspected and re-schedule repairs if you feel like something is off.

How to Further Prevent Car Lift Accidents?

As a series of car lift accidents have shown, auto mechanics are not safe when handling this type of heavy machinery. A mechanic might take the necessary precautions and safety measures, but accidents are still bound to happen if the lift is not properly inspected.

Fortunately, most repair shops conduct such inspections regularly to keep their men safe and prevent OSHA’s hefty fines. An inspection needs to ensure that the lift is working correctly and that there are no maintenance issues.

If a mechanic gets injured by a faulty car lift, he is entitled to workers’ compensation and might even sue his employer for compensation in case of more severe injuries. Also, a deceased mechanic’s family might file a lawsuit against the repair shop operator in a wrongful death case, raking in millions of dollars.

Just like with a car accident, if a third party was responsible for another person’s injuries and/or death, that reckless person or entity can be sued into oblivion (see more details here: and even lose their business– a risk no repair shop wants to take.

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